Theatre For Christmas

Someone in the editorial collective decided it would be a nice idea if I would select what I thought were suitable shows for our readers to see at Christmas, as that’s the time of year a lot of folk take an occasional visit to the theatre. Firstly take into consideration that we go to press 3 weeks before the actual Christmas week so do check the daily papers to ensure the show you wish to see is still running.

Now it rather depends on the type of show you want to see, and who you are going to take along (if anybody) so I’ll try and categorise those that I consider the best ones.

If you are considering taking along a parent, aunt or anyone approaching middle age, settle for GONE WITH THE WIND at Drury Lane Theatre which has enough glamour to appeal to them, or if you feel a straight play would be preferable I suggest one of the following:

LLOYD GEORGE KNEW MY FATHER at the Savoy Theatre which is a light comedy not likely to offend anyone, and skilfully played by Celia Johnson and Sir Ralph Richardson. Another safe bet is CROWN MATRIMONIAL at the Haymarket Theatre which is the story of Edward VIII’s abdication and would especially appeal to people over 40 who can recall the era when this story took place, and THE DAY AFTER FAIR* at the Lyric Theatre stars the lovely Deborah Kerr in a charming romantic drama.

There are quite a few shows that you can take a child to and that won’t bore you in the process. TOAD OF TOAD HALL is playing at the Jeanette Cochran Theatre, ALICE IN WONDERLAND performed by 10 foot puppets at the Mercury Theatre, Notting Hill Gate sounds interesting, and a new musical version of THE WATER BABIES is due at the Cambridge Theatre, starring Neil Reid of ‘Opportunity Knocks’ fame, with music by John Taylor, the talented composer of ‘Charlie Girl’.

If just you are involved in this theatre trip then let me first mention what is still, in my opinion, the best straight play in town, THE PHILANTHROPIST at the Mayfair Theatre. This forerunner of ‘Butley’ is also set in a college and is likewise all about one of the ‘losers in life’ and it’s an extremely enjoyable evening. Certainly the next best production in town must be LONDON ASSURANCE* at the New Theatre. If you fancy a ‘period piece’ and enjoy first class ensemble playing, this cannot be bettered. My third choice for straight theatre is undoubtedly PRIVATE LIVES at the Queens Theatre, for its witty script and star performance by Maggie Smith, but whether or not you’ll be able to get a seat is another matter entirely.

Which leaves us with the musicals and one revue. HULLA BALOO* at the Criterion Theatre is a fun evening and Rogers and Starr with their blue tinged material will give you a lot of laughs. The two religious musicals are still with us: GODSPELL* at the Wyndhams which I found delightful, and JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at the Palace Theatre, which I didn’t care for but everyone else did so I might be wrong. THE DIRTIEST SHOW IN TOWN* is still running at the Duchess Theatre and though I missed a few of the jokes along the way I found it at all times enjoyable. APPLAUSE at Her Majesty’s Theatre is hard to get tickets for, but worth the effort to enjoy Lauren Bacall’s star presence, and as we go to press Tony Newley’s latest musical THE GOOD OLD, BAD OLD DAYS is about to open at the Prince of Wales Theatre and if the score is anything to go by ought to be worth the visit.

One last word regarding theatre prices which are getting higher each year. If you really find front stalls too expensive, but don’t care to be sitting a mile away, I can recommend the back dress circle at those shows marked * as not being too expensive and not too far away. Also the back stalls at Mayfair Theatre for THE PHILANTHROPIST are inexpensive and of course both the Jeannetta Cochran Theatre and Mercury Theatre with their children’s shows are reasonably priced.

It’s all been done before

“Jesus Christ Superstar” Music by Andrew Lloyd. Words by Tim Rice. Directed by Jim Sharman, Palace Theatre, Cambridge Circus, London W1. Tel: 01-437 6834

05-197208xx-8To begin at the beginning. I was born a Jew but not brought up to follow the faith. When I reached the age of understanding it occurred to me that even though we weren’t supposed to believe in the existence of Jesus Christ, anyone who received that much publicity must surely have existed.

Therefore it was with much trepidation that I went along to the Palace Theatre not knowing quite what to expect. JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR has already been a big box office success in the States and it really wouldn’t matter if every critic in the land panned it because it is one of those ‘automatic hits’ that the public will flock to like sheep.

The fact that there were so many irreverent moments in the show didn’t bother me that much as I’d already been warned by fnends who had seen the show and heard the record. Indeed there were several very moving moments handled quite tastefully mixed up with all the other bits.

This ‘rock-opera’ deals with the last 7 days in the life of Jesus who is portrayed suitably poker-faced by Paul Nicholas. The role of Mary is filled by a last minute replacement Dana Gillespie who does fine with her big ballad ‘I don’t know how to love him’ even though she seemed a trifle nervous. But the emphasis in this show seems to be on Judas or maybe it was just that Stephen Tate in this part seemed to eat up the stage every time he came on. This was without doubt one of the most hammy performances in the entire history of the theatre.

The earliest song to score is ‘Everything’s alright’ but as the tricky rhythm beat of this number is then repeated in several later songs it becomes rather a bore. There’s one called ‘Hosanna’ which to my ears sounded like a steal from Kurt Weill. This song involves a big routine with a dozen red streamers which are first lowered for Jesus to walk over and at the end of the number are thrown every which way.

Any moment I expected them to throw in some of His most publicized stunts such as walking on the water, or wandering into the audience with the loaves and fishes, or at least pass the wine around as they so kindly did in ‘Godspell’.

In the second act ‘King Herod’s Song’ stops the show. Its a trite corny number but it comes as light relief just before the trial. I must admit the crucifixion was handled beautifully and as nothing can follow that I won’t try to.